Brave Photographer Has Lens Turned on Her as Strangers Gawk at her Weight (PHOTOS)

If you’ve ever felt as if people might literally be laughing at you behind your back — because of you hair cut, nose shape, skin color, gender, clothes, breast size, piercings or tattoos — you are not alone.

If you’ve ever felt as if people are sneering at you because of your weight, however, Haley Morris-Cafiero really knows how you feel. But she isn’t just guessing that people are snickering at her — she has photographic proof.

The Memphis-based photographer has struggled with her weight for years and has even overheard the rude comments people have made about her size. In a series of photos called “Wait Watchers” that she started capturing in 2010, Morris-Cafiero turns the lens on herself to capture people’s reaction to her size. She sets up a camera on a tripod and then acts casual for a few minutes, taking hundreds of photos of herself and the people unwittingly around her.

“Some people are extremely critical because they feel like I’m being dishonest, saying non-fat people are making fun of me, but that’s not what the photos are about,” she said to the New York Daily News.

“I am saying identity is tied to image in some way — it could be my shape, size, clothes, the color of my skin. As the artist, I pose the question and the viewer makes the answer.”

Many of the reactions in Morris-Cafiero’s photos seem as if the people judging her with their eyes don’t even realize what they’re doing, but — right or wrong, consciously or unconsciously — it seems undeniable she’s under scrutiny for her appearance.

Take a look:

nggallery id=’131484′

  • Wait Watchers 1 of 16
    Wait Watchers
  • Cop 2 of 16
    Cop
    "While creating an image for my Something to Weigh series, I decided to photograph myself sitting alone on the Times Square stairs to capture my solitude in a busy crowd," Morris-Cafiero writes.
  • Lipstick 3 of 16
    Lipstick
    "After developing the film, I noticed that a man was standing behind me being photographed by an attractive blonde woman."
  • Championship 4 of 16
    Championship
    "Rather than pose for her camera, he was sneering at me behind my back."
  • Change 5 of 16
    Change
    "Five minutes later and at another location, another man turns his back to gawk at me while I am photographing myself sitting at a café table."
  • Swing Set 6 of 16
    Swing Set
    "I have always been aware of people making faces, commenting and laughing at me about my size."
  • Gelato 7 of 16
    Gelato
    "I now reverse the gaze and record their reactions to me while I perform mundane tasks in public spaces."
  • Stripes 8 of 16
    Stripes
    "I seek out spaces that are visually interesting and geographically diverse."
  • Blue Vest 9 of 16
    Blue Vest
    "I try to place myself in compositions that contain feminine icons or advertisements."
  • Titan 10 of 16
    Titan
    "Otherwise, I position myself and the camera in a pool of people…and wait."
  • Vitoria 11 of 16
    Vitoria
    "I have always had a hard time controlling my weight."
  • Blue Shirt 12 of 16
    Blue Shirt
    "My uncontrollable exterior has determined my place in society and I have often felt left out and awkward."
  • Bikini 13 of 16
    Bikini
    Haley Morris-Cafiero is a Memphis-based photographer who is an Associate Professor and Head of the Photography Department at Memphis College of Art.
  • Map 14 of 16
    Map
    She uses film and digital rangefinders to capture her images. She says her unaltered images are printed using digital process.
  • Hunted 15 of 16
    Hunted
    "Genuinely, I really don't care what people think about me," Morris-Cafiero said in the New York Daily News. "I don't do it out of anger. I consider it a social experiement. It's not a 'gotcha!' kind of sensationalism. But it is taking the camera and reversing the gaze of the stranger back on to them. I think it's a barometer of society, really."
  • Red Scarf 16 of 16
    Red Scarf
    For more from Haily Morris-Cafiero, visit her website.

All images used with permission from Haley Morris-Cafiero

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